After winning its first tournament game in 11 years and with a talented nucleus returning this season, expectations rose slightly for the Orono girls basketball team.
The Red Riots even toughened their schedule up a bit, with contests against defending Eastern Maine Class C champion George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill and contenders Foxcroft Academy and Washington Academy among the key games.
But coach Jessica Libby’s club has been perfect thus far, winning its first four games, including a 60-46 road win over a GSA team that beat Orono in the tournament a year ago.
“It was a little bit of a revenge game. They knocked us out of the tournament so my kids had a lot of motivation,” said Libby.
It has also helped that the Riots have had a strong post presence in 5-foot-11 senior Ally Sherman and 6-foot freshman Jillian Woodward to complement the guard play of Jade Keezer and Elizabeth Fox.
“In the past, everybody has been worried about our guards,” Libby said. “I’ve got four players who can score in double digits every night.”
That scoring balance has been evident as Keezer, Woodward and Sherman are all averaging more than 10 points per outing.
With that formidable blend of a post presence and guard play, the Riots have been mixing it up offensively, and an added bonus is that Woodward and Sherman can run the floor.
“Obviously our first goal is to get a fast-break layup but we have the luxury, if we need to play in the half-court setting, we can do that as well,” Libby said. “The nice part is my forwards, they’re athletic, they run the floor as well as guards do.”
Woodward, the daughter of University of Maine men’s basketball coach Ted Woodward, has come in and meshed with the older players.
“She’s been playing with them for a couple years, it hasn’t been that much of an adjustment for her,” Libby said. “She played all summer with them. She and Ally Sherman have been working really well together.”
The win over George Stevens served a message to the rest of Eastern Maine that Orono will be one of the teams to beat this winter.
And with no true dominant team like the Dexter teams from earlier this decade, Libby’s first objective is to be playing in Bangor in February.
“I think anybody’s goal right now is just to get to the tournament,” she said. “Class C is wide open this year.”
It’s helpful that the Riots have plenty of championship pedigree, as Keezer and Fox have played key roles on the school’s soccer team, which has won the last two regional championships.
“They’ve had a lot of success in other sports they play that has carried over into basketball,” Libby said.
The streak has ended
The first full week of schoolgirl basketball is barely behind us, and the longest winning streak in the state has come to an end.
Waterville, which had won 67 consecutive games and is the three-time defending Class B state champion, had its unbeaten skein ended by Leavitt of Turner Center last Tuesday in convincing fashion, 70-47.
Hornets junior Courtney Anderson barely missed a triple double in that contest with 17 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
While the Purple Panthers will look to rebound, there are plenty of key games on tap this week, highlighted by Brewer facing Bangor at Red Barry Gym tonight at 7.
Coach Andy Nickerson’s Witches sit at 1-2, looking to end a two-game losing skid after dropping a tough decision to Hampden Academy last Tuesday and falling to Messalonskee of Oakland on Friday.
Bangor is coming off a 57-37 road victory Saturday over Lawrence of Fairfield, and coach Tom Tennett’s Rams are playing their home opener.
Other key games this week have George Stevens Academy facing two stiff contests in Class B contender Mount Desert Island at home Wednesday and a road test Friday in Corinth against Central.
Geoghegan, Sterling sign
Dartmouth College has always been quite the attraction for Maine high school runners, including standouts such as Ben True and Corey DeWitt.
Two more Maine runners will be wearing the green and white of the New Hampshire school starting next fall, as Will Geoghegan of Brunswick and Henry Sterling of North Yarmouth Academy will run for the Big Green next year.
Both runners were accepted via early decision at the Ivy League institution.
Geoghegan, who also considered Harvard and Columbia, has won the last two Class A state cross country championships, and owns the fastest time ever run on the 5K Troy Howard Middle School course in Belfast (15 minutes, 33 seconds).Geoghegan will figure prominently into the Dragons’ indoor track and field plans this winter, as the team has been pegged a strong contender in Class A.
Local fans can watch him run soon, as Brunswick will compete in an Eastern Maine Indoor Track League meet Jan. 8 in Orono.
Sterling is the reigning Class C state champ in the 1,600 meters outdoors while he also took Class B state honors in the mile run last winter.